Is oatmeal fattening or good for weight loss?

Oatmeal (also known as porridge) is usually eaten for breakfast and is prepared by boiling oats in milk or water. Oats are very nutritious and are a rich source of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, fiber, various B vitamins and antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating oats can help lower cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar and relieve constipation.

But what about when you are trying to lose weight? Should you eat oatmeal or avoid it?

Nutritional information

1 cup of oats cooked with water has:

Calories 166
Fat 4 g
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 9 mg
Carbohydrates 32 g
Fiber 4 g
Sugar 1 g
Protein 6 g

It is important to consider calories when it comes to weight management. The simple equation ‘calories in – calories out’ provides an indication on whether an individual will gain or lose weight over time. ‘Calories in’ represents the number of calories that are introduced into the body via food, whereas ‘calories out’ represents the number of calories that are burned naturally throughout the day and during exercise.

If the result of the equation is a positive number, it means that excess calories are being consumed. These excess calories are not used up by the body as a source of energy and are instead stored as fat. Consuming more calories than your body requires will lead to weight gain over time.

If the result of the equation is a negative number, it means that not enough calories are being consumed to meet the individuals daily energy requirements. As a result, fat stores from around the body are utilized as a source of energy. Consuming fewer calories than your body requires will result in weight loss over time.

The number of calories that a person needs to consume in order to lose, maintain or gain weight can vary greatly from person to person and depends on the individuals age, gender, height, weight and how active they are.

You can use the calculator below to get a rough estimate of how many calories you should be consuming, depending on your goals.

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level
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This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 75 kgs, is 170 cm tall and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume approximately 2300 calories to maintain her weight, 1800 calories to lose weight and 1400 calories to lose weight fast.

If she were to consume upwards of 2300 calories per day, she would begin to gain weight over time.

A cup of oatmeal that has been prepared by cooking oats in water has 166 calories.

On an 1800 calorie diet, this would equate to 9% of total daily calories, which means that provided oatmeal is prepared in a healthy way and it is eaten in reasonable amounts, it can be a great weight loss food.

One reason for this is because oatmeal has a fairly high fullness factor and eating it keeps you feeling satisfied for longer than many other foods. Numerous studies have shown that oatmeal can be beneficial for weight loss.

This study involved 48 healthy individuals aged 18 years or older who consumed either oatmeal or an oat based ready to eat breakfast cereal.

It was found that oatmeal increased fullness and reduced hunger & desire to eat. Therefore fewer calories were eaten at lunch time by participants who ate oatmeal, compared to those who ate the cereal.

Another study also had similar results, showing that oatmeal had a higher satiety than corn flakes, especially in overweight subjects.

And this study found that oatmeal consumption by children was associated with better diet quality & nutrient intake and a reduced risk of obesity.

Finally, this study involved Chinese adults who either consumed 100 g of instant oat based cereal or 100 g of wheat flour based noodles daily, for a period of 6 weeks. The results showed that LDL cholesterol levels and waist circumference in the oat group decreased significantly, compared to the noodle group.

Oats have large amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, which according to studies such as this may increase feelings of fullness. It may also promote the release of a hormone known as PYY, which helps with appetite regulation.

Even though oatmeal has a large amount of carbs, it is a good source of protein and fiber, both of which can assist with weight management.

Studies have shown that increasing protein intake can help reduce the total number of calories consumed per day, thanks to its high satiety.

Additionally, making a simple change and increasing daily fiber intake can be beneficial for weight loss.

Oats are a very versatile ingredient and don’t always need to be eaten in the form of porridge. They can also be used as an ingredient to prepare smoothies, muffins, pancakes and homemade protein bars.

Can oatmeal be fattening?

If any food is eaten in abundance, it will lead to weight gain, due to the simple fact that excess calories will be consumed. Oatmeal is no different; eating it in large amounts can lead to weight gain over time.

This is why portion control and eating it in moderation is important. Having a cup or two of cooked oatmeal per day is perfectly fine.

The type of oatmeal and the way in which it is prepared can also make a big difference. Some types of instant oatmeal come with large amounts of added sugar, which will not do your waistline any good.

Your best option is to prepare oatmeal from scratch using groats or plain steel-cut or rolled oats, that have no extra ingredients added to them.

A cup of low fat milk has 100 calories, whereas water has 0, so this should also be a consideration when deciding which liquid ingredient to use when preparing oatmeal, especially if you are trying to minimize your calorie intake as much as possible.

Additionally, be careful of the toppings that you use. Dousing your oatmeal with spoonfuls of sugar is definitely not recommended.

If you don’t like the taste of plain oatmeal, there are lots of healthy toppings you can add to it to make it more palatable. These include bananas, berries, apples, cinnamon powder, nuts, seeds and honey (be careful not to add too much though, a tablespoonful is plenty).

Conclusion

Oatmeal is a filling food that can be very beneficial for weight loss, so long as it is eaten in moderation. It should ideally be eaten for breakfast because it will provide a slow release of energy and keep you satisfied for a few hours.